Gospel of Luke
"That you may know the truth..."(1:4)
"He opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures." Luke 24:45
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Practical and Pastoral Observations on the Gospel of Luke (please read each chapter slowly and meditatively before reading comments below). Reflections on each chapter are drawn from my personal interaction with the chapter in a daily quiet time.
Introduction: Luke, the only Gentile author in the NT and a physician (Col. 4:14) and frequent companion of Paul in his missionary work and imprisonment, wrote the largest proportion of the NT (27% by word count). His work is addressed to Theophilus (v.3 and Acts 1:1) and spans Luke and Acts, which he viewed as a single work. Luke explains in detail his purpose and method in writing (v.1-4) and is broadly seen as a careful historian throughout.
In addition, Luke's contribution includes a perspective intended to be helpful to Gentile readers, much additional detail about events surrounding the birth of Jesus and John the Baptist, including four beautiful hymns (chapters 1 and 2), and many stories about Jesus' encounter with individuals including Jesus' respect for women. The Gospel also gives great emphasis to prayer, interest in justice, poverty and wealth. Unique also are the wonderful parables of the Good Samarian and the Prodigal Son. It is hard to overestimate the contribution of Luke to the New Testament.
We know little of Luke's early life, or of his life following Paul's martyrdom (2 Tim. 4:11) of which Luke may have been the only NT witness. It is likely that Luke wrote around 60 AD during Paul's two-year imprisonment (Acts 24:27), possibly in part in preparation for Paul's trial.
Luke's high purpose: is to investigate carefully and write a orderly historical account from the beginning of the Gospel (v.1) to the time of Luke's writing, some 60 years later (Acts 28:30-31). Like John (1:1ff), who will write 30 years after Luke, Luke focuses on Christ as God's Logos (v. 2). In this Luke's highest purpose is that we might know the "exact truth" (v.4, NASB) of the Gospel and be utterly certain of it. While Luke addresses Theophilus (v.1), a dignitary otherwise unknown to us, his widest purpose, in the end, is for Christ to be proclaimed to all nations (Luke 24:47).
The announcement of the forerunner: it was common in Roman days for an important person to send someone running ahead on the road announcing who was to come. John the Baptist was given this preparatory role in the "spirit and power of Elijah" (v.17; cf. 17:10-14), fulfilling the prophecy of Malachi 4:5-6, to "make ready a people prepared for the Lord" (v.17).
Elizabeth and Zacharias, like Abraham and Sara, were aged and barren but "nothing is impossible with God" (v.37).
The announcement of the King: Jesus (meaning "the Lord is salvation") will sit on the throne of his father David forever (v.33) and would be called the Son of God because the "power of the Most High" would conceive him in Mary's womb (v. 35). Mary's "Magnificat" (from the first word in Latin translation; v. 46-55) contains 15 OT quotations, suggesting how loved and rich was the knowledge of God's Word in Mary's home.
The birth of the forerunner: John (meaning "God is gracious") is born (v.57) and named over strong tradition of the firstborn being called by his father's name. Zacharias' "Benedictus" (“Blessed” from the first word in Latin translation, vs. 68-79) reflects moving worship of the God of Israel. God is celebrated for His mercy fulfilling His promise to Abraham (v.72-73) and our rescue from our enemies (v.71,74) that we might serve Him without fear (v.74), in peace (79) and holiness (v.74).
God's faithfulness to His covenant promises to Abraham (v.73) and David (v.32-33), despite the unfaithfulness of Israel - and often the Church, is astounding. God does this all for our undeserved salvation! May His praises fill our hearts.
Personal Application: I will hold to God's promises without wavering regardless of time involved, particularly in regard to the salvation of family members for whom we continue to pray.
My Prayer: Father, how faithful your covenant promises and how tender Your mercies. How gracious Your ways to shine on us who "sit in darkness and the shadow of death" and to "guide our feet in the way of peace" (v.79).
The birth of the King: Jesus is Savior, Christ and Lord (v.11) who brings good news and great joy to all people (v.10). "The Messiah’s coming brings glory to God in the heavens and peace to humans on earth (NLT)." In this wonderful work, Jesus is God's light of revelation to the Gentiles and the glory of Israel (v.32). Whereas there can be no final peace for the wicked (Isa. 57:21), peace comes to the humble who receive God’s grace.
Revealer/Divider of human hearts: at eight days old (v.21) Simeon prophesized that Jesus, who would raise many to glorious salvation, would precipitate the fall of others (v.34). Christ, before whom there is no neutrality, reveals the depths of the human heart in response to His Father's Kingdom (v.35). This response of allegiance or opposition determines human destiny.
My Father's House (v.49): At age 13 a Jewish boy becomes a "son of the commandment" (Ryrie); preparation begins a year or two earlier. Jesus' insights and responses so amazed (v.47) his teachers that they gathered around him to hear. Jesus would also divide the hearts of his teachers.
Staying Close: We are wise to stay close to the identity and purpose revealed in the announcement of Jesus' birth (v.10-14). Worldly wisdom attempts to add or subtract from the angel's message. Such efforts in essence reveal the human heart in response to Jesus: Savior, Christ and Lord (v.11).
Personal Application: I will align my heart with Jesus, asking Him to purify any wrong in me. I will center my heart only on Him who is and brings "good news of great joy for all people."
My Prayer: Father, my heart is full of joy! Enable me to keep my heart and spirit simple; focused always and only on the good news of my Savior, Christ the Lord.
John and Jesus - One Message: Since John the Baptist came to prepare Israel for Jesus the Messiah (v.4-6), John's message must be assumed to be in direct line with the purpose of Jesus' coming. John's clear warning was judgment (v.7) on those relying on religious privilege (v.8) without demonstrating the fruit of repentance: "bear fruits in keeping with repentance…the axe is already laid at the root of the tree" (v.8-9). Water baptism signals a desire for forgiveness and the commitment to repent (v.3).
Repentance is evidenced by a continual giving to the poor (v.11) coupled with overcoming greed and the temptation to enrich ourselves at the expense of others (v.13-14). Care for the poor is more central to repentance in God's sight than we may recognize. Even the smallest surplus should be shared with others in need (NLT).
Repentance is far more than a change of heart. Likewise a change of heart is only that if it changes behavior at those points we find hardest and most resistant.
The Messiah (Christ) comes with dual roles: Jesus is the one who calls to repentance and baptizes with the Holy Spirit and fire (v.16). He is also the final judge of all mankind (v.17). Both roles bring purification to holiness in heart and behavior.
Jesus, having received the Holy Spirit (v.22), can now pour Him out on those He baptizes, empowering us for holy living.
Christ is commonly spoken of as Lord and Savior, which He is fully. His role as Holy Spirit baptizer and judge are also more specific pointers to both his absolute authority and sole ability to save us from judgment.
Jesus's genealogy is traced through Mary - whose father was Eli (v.23ff) and Joseph's father by marriage - back to the first Adam.
Personal Application: The tithe applies to all, including the poor. I am not poor and will practice the graduated tithe in which 20, 30% or more of income is shared with the needy and the cause of the Gospel. I will also seek Christ's baptism with the Holy Spirit and with fire in an ongoing way, recognizing I 'leak'.
My Prayer: Father, I'm surprised at how little John the Baptist's call to repentance has to do with worship directly, and how much with sharing with the poor. Forgive me for accepting a false distinction to avoid obedience and dealing with greed.
Son of God: the Greek sentence construction makes clear the devil did not doubt Jesus was the Son of God (v.3,9, Ryrie). Likewise, demons knew Jesus to be the Son of God (v41), the Holy One of God (v.34). Jesus had heard it also from His Father (3:22). Yet, Jesus wanted to reveal his identity in his own way, not through the announcement of demons, v.41 (NLT).
Satan: means accuser or adversary. He is always against us. He has limited rule (v.6) but surrender (contrary to the lie of v.7) would not give us anything, rather only give Satan unlimited rule over us, i.e. hell. There is no more fundamental decision and battle in the universe.
Victory over Temptation: There is therefore immense consequence to our response to temptation, as there was for Jesus. Adam had failed the test. Jesus, the second Adam, did not fail. Satan tested Jesus three times while fasting (vs.1-12) and additionally during his ministry and passion. Our temptations are also require repeated right decision. Satan always withdraws (v.13) when we stand firm. The power of the Holy Spirit is prominent in victory (v.1, 14). Jesus gave priority to this vital relationship (v.42).
Jesus' Announcement: Jesus' ministry was an expression of the Year of Jubilee "the year of the Lord's favor." The remainder of the quote "the day of vengeance of our God" was not read, reserved for those rejecting God's salvation in Christ at His second coming. Jesus' hometown wanted the blessing but rejected the notion that the Year of Jubilee extended to Gentiles also (like those living in Zarephath and Syria v.25-27).
Jesus' Authority Overcomes Resistance to Jubilee: Satan resists the Year of Jubilee since it releases those oppressed by evil. The superior authority of Jesus is demonstrated in his teaching (v.32), expulsion of demons (v.35) and deliverance from disease (v.40). All Jesus did was evidence of the Kingdom (Jubilee) of God which He was sent to advance at the expense of Satan's kingdom.
Our mission too is an extension of the salvation Jubilee of God's favor to His oppressed people. We, with the same purpose (v.43), must draw on the fullness of the same Holy Spirit (v.1,14), resist temptation with the same reliance on the authority of Scripture as did Jesus (v.4,8,12), and bring truth, deliverance and grace with the same authority of the Messiah in whose name we are sent.
Personal Application: I will joy in the Jubilee of salvation. Joy and favor (grace) will be the markers of ministry in my spirit. I will draw from the fullness of the Holy Spirit daily in moments of seclusion (v.42). I will press back the oppression of Satan with the authority of Christ. Jesus' trained his disciples to say with him, I was sent for this purpose (v.43)
My Prayer: Father, Jesus expressed frustration, even anger, with those who rejected Your Jubilee of grace, yet He started with joy over the favor (2:14) announced by angels at His birth. Help me live and minister out of joy and grace also. Help me fight only Satan, rather than those oppressed, blinded and confused by him.
Fishing for People: Jesus used a miracle to help his disciples understand their calling (v.10). The chapter continues to illustrate this core purpose (4:43) of Jesus and those called to follow Him. God alone (v.21): can read hearts (v.22) and forgive sins (v.24). Jesus does both, then and now. Jews of Jesus' day also believed God alone could heal lepers. It is this belief which makes the leper's request so remarkable (v.12) and why Jesus commends him (v.13).
As darkness cannot overcome light, Jesus is not contaminated by disease or evil but rather brings healing and salvation. Likewise Jesus is not contaminated by "tax collectors and sinners" (v.30) but brings grace and newness of life. This is wonderfully freeing, also for us. Contrary to protecting ourselves from bad influences, we can reach out and embrace "those who need a physician" (v.31) confident of the work of God causing the flow of influence to go from light to darkness. Christ changes caution to joy!
The wedding feast: Jesus loved the image of Messianic Banquet (drawn from Isa 25:6-8) to help people see the joy of the Kingdom. The wedding feast is both a daily experience looking to Christ and a central gift in the consummation. For this reason it was inappropriate, at it would be at a wedding celebration, to fast with the Messiah here (v.34).
Re-Creation in Christ: The depth of the radical newness brought by the Messiah was sensed by the Pharisees (v. 17, 21, 30). "Jesus did not come to patch up the old covenant, but to establish a new one. The Kingdom of God brings a whole new orientation to thinking and living (NLT)." The new wine (of the Kingdom) must be put into fresh wineskins (of the new birth) (v.38).
The two cannot negotiate compromise (v.36-37) which sadly also guarantees a measure of spiritual conflict between those who understand and embrace, and those who sometimes persecute Christ's followers when their worldview is threatened by Him.
Christ's mission of Jubilee, though sometimes opposed by the status quo, is a mission of great joy, as prophesied by angels (Luke 2:10). Let us keep this foremost in our hearts as we show a wide range of love to those around us, especially the poor and oppressed. Jesus brings joy!
Personal Application: I will rejoice in, and learn from, those disciples who live out more radical understandings of the Kingdom than I. Let me be slow to defend church status quo which does not lean hard into the Kingdom.
My Prayer: Lord give me eyes to see those around me who need your Jubilee salvation. It's so easy to walk and see only the beaten path, missing those you want me to see and to which you want to bring joy.
Jesus is Lord of all and as such does not avoid confrontation between the Kingdom of God and those who resist. He has claimed deity (5:20) and does not hide, but directly claims sovereignty over the Sabbath and openly (v.8) heals on the Sabbath again putting human need ahead of human religious traditions.
The New Israel: Jesus' teaching would renew Israel entirely. Therefore Jesus chose 12 apostles, one for each of the 12 tribes of Israel, to represent the restored people of God. The range of Jesus' choice could not have been greater; from Matthew, an agent of the Roman state, to Simon the Zealot whose group actively sought overthrow of the Roman government. The Kingdom of God is for and over all.
The characteristics of the citizens of the Kingdom: Jesus speaks not that we might analyze His words but obey them, now before the "great reversal" (v.20-25). Jesus' sermon (v.20-49) continues the theme of Jubilee as in chapters 4 and 5. People were commonly taught in the ancient world to love their family and friends and hate their enemies (NLT). Jesus overturns this, the tables of the money-changers and most of our comfortable self indulgences.
The Golden Rule: The point of the "golden rule" (v.31) is not necessarily that we will be better treated. Certainly concern for self must not be our core motivation for following Jesus' the golden rule. Rather, Jesus' call is to love (v.32), do good (v. 33) and lend (v.34) also to those who don't love, do good or lend to us. Jesus’ challenge is practical love for all people, including enemies, not just those who already love us. This is what God is like (v.35).
Mercy: We desperately want mercy (v.36), not to be judged or condemned but pardoned (v.37). But we will not experience such grace from God while withholding it from others, including our enemies.
Let us give mercy, pardon and grace freely, abundantly, lavishly (v.38) to all. In this we cannot look to evaluate how others are doing in following this principle; to do so is the judge them. Let us look rather to ourselves only (v.41-42) to see how we are doing in giving grace.
Root and Fruit: The change to Kingdom living requires a deep transformation of heart by the Spirit of God. Godly attitudes and behavior can then flow from the heart and from the lips (v.43-45), just as good fruit reveals good roots.
Obedience: The starting point is obedience (v.46) on these, for all but angels, uncharted paths. The outcomes however are beyond measure. Allegiance to Christ and his Kingdom builds an unshakeable 'house' (v.48), whereas going our own way means being swept away to ruin (v.49). Such an ethic is not possible without confidence in the eternally firm foundation who holds us: Christ himself. In this ethic we are vulnerable to loss and abuse from those who might take advantage of us. But trusting Christ, we are as secure as a foundation dug to the rock.
My Response: I will give to someone today who will not give back, love someone today who will not (perhaps cannot) love back, do good today to someone who will not (perhaps cannot) do good in return.
My Prayer: Father, help me not judge or condemn but pardon and be merciful, as you have to me. Remind me of my sin and need of grace and mercy if I falter in resolve to be like you.
Finding Faith: From the beginning of Jesus' ministry (e.g. the Magi), Gentiles were equally or more responsive than Jews. Jesus went first to the Jews but delighted in faith wherever He found wholehearted response, as with the centurion (v.9), a God-fearer who had not fully converted to Judaism but fully trusted Christ.
Death itself not beyond Jesus' reach (v.14): The dead man was the only means of the widow's support and hope for the future (v.12). I would love to know what the man said as he begin to report what had happened (v.15)! Only God is the giver of life (v.16), from conception through resurrection.
Seeking confirmation: John's question (v.19) is often viewed as doubt, which would have been understandable from prison wanting to know his courageous life had not been in vain. But John's goal could equally have been a refreshing confirmation before he died. It's not clear if John had seen Jesus' ministry personally (v. 22).
Some wonder if John had expected Jesus to overthrow Roman rule, rather than Jesus' "greater purpose of reversing the effects of sin and death" (NLT), but this is speculation. "
Not only did the fruit of Jesus' life demonstrate the confirmation John desired, but the effects of His ministry continue to be shown right and true by the lives of those who follow Him (v.35).
John and the Kingdom: Jesus praised John as the greatest person who ever lived under the old covenant. Yet even the least person in the Kingdom of God is greater than John. "The blessings of the new covenant—free and complete forgiveness of sins, the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, and intimate knowledge of God—give believers in Jesus a new and greater position than even John enjoyed (NLT)."
Greater forgiveness; greater love: This woman's gratitude (for forgiveness, v.37) and Mary's gratitude (for her brother's resurrection, John 12:3) show the unbreakable connection of grace and love, recognized even by the Pharisees who feared, but did not respect, Jesus (v.43ff). May I see more deeply into my need for grace.
Blessed is he who does not turn away: There are many reasons people turn away from Jesus; His authority, His claims [to be Son of God and Son of Man, the only way of salvation, His seven "I Am's" in John], His call for faith and obedience, His fearful power, His refusal to let others set His agenda causing disappointment that He didn't meet expectations. Yet those who do not turn away from Him (because they do not take offence for these reasons), are blessed (v.23).
Personal Response: I will embrace Jesus, moment by moment, in all His amazing, uncategorizable God-ness. I will love greatly, as I have been greatly forgiven. I praise the Lord that faith leads to forgiveness and forgiveness to salvation and salvation to boundless love and peace (v.50).
My Prayer: Lord, may I be more aware of how much I've been forgiven, how much grace has been given at immeasurable cost, how deep is my absolute dependence on You, that I may love more, worship more, rejoice in You beyond measure.
The Kingdom of God: Jesus' central call and message (v.1) enables us to understand and respond to what follows in this chapter.
Bear fruit: obedience (v.21) is the proper response to the Kingdom of God. The perseverance (v.15) Jesus calls for is "a long obedience in the same direction" without distraction (v.14). This results, whether it is our intention or not, in becoming a light to others (v.16) in consequence of our obedience. Likewise our faith, as we face challenges around us (as Jesus did in the four amazing encounters of vs. 22-56) is also fruit of the Kingdom as the seed of the Word is bearing fruit. The difference between Jesus' faith and authority and ours seems to be a matter of degree, not of kind, as we are branches of His vine (John 15).
Master of the seas: Jesus’ calming of the storm demonstrated his authority over nature and implies his deity, since God is master of the seas (Ps 65:7; 89:9; 104:6-7; 107:23-32, NLT). Jesus' right to make His claim on our lives, as He does over the sea, is similarly unquestionable.
Cleansing the Unclean: Jesus seems deliberately to walk 30 miles to a Gentile city and enter a cemetery - which would render a Jew unclean and none would do voluntarily - to rescue a man enslaved by Satan (NLT).
The abyss (v.28-31): to where all evil spirits will go (Rev. 9:1; 20:1-3). Jesus had the authority to send them now. Why Jesus allowed postponement we don't know but it seems a form of mercy or otherwise to advance God's plan to manifest his glory.
Save: Jesus, the incomparable Emanuel, saves as none other. Both the woman's ailment (v.43) and the death of the girl were incurable. The Greek word for “save” (v.48) indicates both spiritual and physical healing (NLT).
How can we not tell others (v.56, cf. v.39)? He is master of the sea, master of the demonic, master of sickness, master of death; Lord of all. How can we but stand in amazement, fall in worship and follow forever?
Personal Response: I will hear the Word and do it. I will persevere in obedience to the Word (seed) and to the Living Word (incarnate) both through temptation and persecution. I will trust and walk in the authority of Christ over evil.
My Prayer: Father, thank you for your life-giving Word in the scriptures and your Living Word in Christ. Thank you that you give truth, life and salvation freely to all who "hear the Word of God and do it."
An unlikely Kingdom: Jesus came to announce and demonstrate the Kingdom of God (v.2), in its authority (v.38-43), humility (v.47-48) and service of the poor and needy (12-17).
Preparing us to serve: In preparing His disciples, Jesus was preparing us also to announce the Kingdom of God and demonstrate its character; carrying on His work after His "exodus" (v.31) to heaven. ("As the exodus from Egypt was God’s great act of deliverance in the OT, so Jesus’ exodus from this world—his death, resurrection, and ascension—was God’s great act of deliverance in the NT. Jesus would accomplish a new and greater exodus" (NLT).
Jesus wanted His disciples first to learn the dependability of the Father (v.3-4) despite opposition (v.5), after which He allowed disciples to carry minimal provision (22:35-36).
The point remains that the disciple of Jesus must be ready to go anywhere, willing to give up home and security (v.57-62) as Jesus calls for a commitment that takes precedence over all human relationships (NLT). Jesus' comment on allegiance (v.50) is a test to apply to others, whereas 11:23 is a test to apply to ourselves (Ryrie).
Preparing for the cross and God's glory: Jesus begins to prepare His disciples for the cross (v.44), with the first mention of that horror in v.23, but also for the glory to follow in His resurrection (v.29-36). Jesus’ pre-existent glory shone through his human body (v.31), (NLT). v.35 further clarifies Jesus' relation to the Father.
Who then is Great? Those who are willing to be the least and to serve, even unto death, those who are weakest and most vulnerable, e.g. children (v.48), are those who are great in the Kingdom. Jesus came to save even those who opposed Him (v.51-58).
Personal Application: Die to self, to personal ambitions, comfort and security, valued relationships, even to physical life. Live to the Father, to His Kingdom, to the least and the most needy, to the glory of God eternally. I will follow Jesus in full allegiance, anywhere. I will serve the least and the most needy in His name.
My Prayer: Lord Jesus, when I am, in life and death, wholly Yours, I am free, whether I live or die, have or have not, rich or poor, time, goods or health, whether I am loved or hated or ignored, I am free and whole in You! Thank you for taking me wholly and always!
Mission of the Seventy: expands and supplements the mission of the Twelve to Israel (9:1-6) with Jesus' mission to the Gentiles (10:1-17). Genesis 10 lists 70 nations in the Hebrew text and 72 in the Septuagint, representing the whole known world.
Others have suggested Jesus may have chosen 70 for the same reason the Sanhedrin was composed of 70 priests, teachers of law, and elders (plus one to break a tie), i.e. to represent leadership of the new Israel in line with the practice of Moses in Exodus 24.
In either case, Jesus was pointing ahead to the Kingdom greater than the political Israel which would soon crucify Him.
Jesus' mission is urgent: The crop must be brought in quickly when time is right/crop is ripe before it spoils. Therefore pray for more workers (v.2), travel light and don't stop to socialize (v.4).
Receptive hearts: Look for peaceful men for whom to demonstrate and declare the Kingdom (v.9). Hard and prideful hearts will be judged for rejecting God's rule (v.10-15).
Amazingly, in this, we represent the Father through the Son (v.16).
Kingdom victory over Satan: Victory at every level -
1.) demons are subject to the children of the Kingdom (snakes and scorpions are symbols of Satan (serpent in Gen. 3) and demons (scorpions in Rev 9:3-4).
2.) salvation for those previously enslaved (recorded in heaven’s books, Exodus 32:32-33; Ps 69:28; Isa 4:3; Dan 12:1; Mal 3:16-17; Phil 4:3; Heb 12:23; Rev 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:12, 15; 21:27),
3.) revelation of the Father through the Son (v.22) and the
4.) inauguration of the Kingdom of God (v.23-24).
Jesus uniquely reveals and represents the Father and the Father has uniquely turned "all things" over to Jesus (v.22). This is the theme of the Gospel of John and Revelation to John. Jesus gives of His divine authority (exousian) to His disciples to proclaim and demonstrate God's Kingdom rule over the, can we say, mere ability/power (dunamin) of the enemy (v.17-19).
v. 22 (NASB): "All things have been handed over to Me by My Father (authority), and no one knows who the Son is except the Father and who Father is except the Son (unique and exclusive), and anyone to who the Son wills to reveal Him (mission)."
Shema: Jesus affirmed the Jewish Shema prayer (from Deut. 6:4-9, 11:13-21 and Num. 15:37-41) in v.27 but the prayer must be lived out.
Love for Neighbour in the Kingdom: Samaritans originated from conquering Assyrian colonists left in the northern kingdom 722 BC. The victors intermarried with Israelites. Samaritans built a rival temple on Mount Gerizim and used their own version of the Pentateuch. The Jewish king Hyrcanus destroyed the temple at Gerizim in 128 BC. Tensions and distrust remained high.
Samaritans may have been seen by Jews at the time somewhat as Muslims by Christians today. But in Christ all things become new; the Father 's heart being revealed uniquely in the incarnation of the Son (v.22) Oil soothed the wound; wine was a disinfectant.
Mary and Martha: "Rabbis did not usually have female disciples. Jesus validated Mary’s desire to be Jesus’ disciple. (NLT)" A single dish was adequate; a large meal less important than hearing God's word (Ryrie).
Personal Response: I will walk in confidence that I know the Father rightly because I know Jesus who reveals Him uniquely. I will walk in confidence because I know Jesus has, and have given me, authority over the evil one and his demons. I will show practical love today to the Samaritan God puts in my path.
My Prayer: Father, what joy this clarity and beauty and authority brings my heart! How I rejoice in You and Your Kingdom of righteousness, grace and authority. All praise, glory and worship be Yours forever! Amen.
Hold fast in prayer: Our "shameless persistence" (v.8) and expectation of answer to prayer is based (on His side) entirely on God's character as gracious Father (v.13) and (on our side) on our pattern of being like the Father in giving grace to everyone indebted to us (v.4). As these line up we ask, seek, knock (v.9), confident of an open heaven (v.10).
Overcome Beelzebub: Victory is sure 1.) because Christ is stronger (v.22), 2.) His Kingdom is undivided (v.23), and 3.) because the person delivered from an unclean spirit does not remain empty (v.24-26) but asks for and is filled with the glorious Holy Spirit (v.13). In all this, Jesus' exorcisms are evidence the Kingdom of God is present and overcomes Satan.
Christ not only overcomes but takes away the weapons (e.g. lies, confusion, deception) the evil spirit will otherwise use to regain entry (v.22). Safety is only to those committed to Christ (v.23). Neutrality does not exist. Without embrace of Christ, the house is only empty and demons return.
Give not cause to the Gentiles to Judge God's people: Judgement on Israel and God's people can come not only from God who is righteous and utterly holy but also from Gentiles (Ninevites and the Queen of Sheba (v.30-32) who turned to the Lord even after minimal exposure to the Lord of Glory.
Look to the Light of Christ: The eye is the lamp to the body; what we look at determines our current health and very destiny. If the eye remains focused on Christ and His Kingdom, our inner being (body and spirit) is not darkened (v.34-36) and everyone around us benefits (v.33).
Greater Responsibility for Spiritual Leaders: Place no false confidence in being or following a religious leader. Jesus is scathing in his rebuke of those who appear upright on the outside but are dark on the inside (v.39-40), who major on the minors and minor on the majors (v.42), who seek the respect of others they don't deserve (v.43), who lay unnecessary burdens on others and provide no help carrying them (v.46) but actually defile and hinder others from entering the Kingdom (v.52). Commentaries on the Pentateuch and further oral tradition of the time placed human demands on the people not called for by God.
Personal Response: I will examine my heart and life to be sure no behavior or attitude of the Pharisees and teachers of the law clings to me. I will pray dependently, persistently, confidently; deeply aware of my need to give grace to all, reflecting the grace I myself need from my Father. I will be wholly committed to Christ so the devil has no crack to exploit in the unity of His Kingdom.
My Prayer: Holy Spirit, convict me every time I fail in any way to give grace to others. I need the grace of the Father constantly and desperately. Make me a channel of grace to all, including my enemies, as my Father in heaven is gracious.
What to be concerned and not to be concerned about: be concerned for righteousness, not only because all unrighteousness will be revealed (v.2-3) but because hell is the destiny of those who choose unrighteousness (v.5). Be concerned to confess Christ before men (v.8-9). Be concerned to seek the Kingdom (v.31-34).
Be not concerned about material goods and wealth (v.13ff); neither worry (v.29) or seek to accumulate them for oneself (v.21), rather trust God utterly (v.28) and give freely of what He provides (v.33).
Faithful and ready: Jesus has gone to a great celebration (v.36) and, on return, will bless his servants who are not distracted, fall into evil (v.45) or forget their calling (v.48).
Those who are unfaithful will be punished in degree according to their deeds (v.46-48), from total to lesser punishment. It may be the expectation of purgatory for such unfaithful servants is drawn from v.47-48, 59.
Opposition: while the Master is away, the cross (Jesus' "baptism" v.50) and His call to carrying our "cross" (life of discipleship) will be opposed, even within close families (v.52-53). Yet we must discern and do what is right (v.57), analyzing the 'signs of the time' (v.56) and staying the course, looking up at Him who is our 'north star' as He comes.
Application: We have false confidence in ourselves when we can do little, not even add an hour to the length of our lives (v.25). Our joy however is confidence in God who is our righteousness and our Kingdom treasure (v.33). He is the One who strengthens us to be faithful, not distracted or turned aside by opposition, till he comes. I will stay focused on the Lord and His Kingdom, trusting Him for every provision, and for strength and grace to hold firm when opposed, until He comes.
My Prayer: Father, thank you for the joy of your Kingdom which will come fully when Christ returns from his coronation. I set my eyes on the heavens which will open and reveal that glorious day!
Fruitful Repentance: Jesus is not unsympathetic to the plight of injustice (v.1) or tragic accident (v.4) but counters the view that those who suffer do so in proportion to their sins (v.3,5). Rather, Jesus teaches, all need to turn from a path that leads to destruction to enter the Kingdom. If this turning (repentance) is mere talk without evidence (fruit, v.7), destruction will still follow (v.9).
Bad things happen to good and bad alike since we live in a fallen world. I will not be surprised but be reminded, each time, of my, and everyone's, need for ongoing turning (repentance) towards the Kingdom of God.
Presence of the Kingdom: The Kingdom of God is the presence and authority of God. Some sickness can be caused by a spirit (v.11) with freedom from the bondage simply announced (v.12-13) as an effect of the rule of God. The presence of the Kingdom will grow quickly (one season) as mustard seed (v.19) and thoroughly as leaven (v.21).
Entering the Kingdom: Not all however will be saved (v.23) by entering the presence and reign of God; response to the Kingdom must be whole-hearted, even all-consuming (v.24). Curiosity or simple proximity or listening to Jesus' teaching (v.26) is inadequate. The blessings of entering the Kingdom are worth everything (v.29), even if one enters last (v.30).
v.24: Strive to enter through the narrow door (now); for many, I tell you, will seek (future) to enter and will not be able.
The Cross: Jesus not only calls us to give all for the Kingdom but he also gives everything for the Kingdom. The threat of Herod (v.31) [the warning may have been real or simply a ruse to turn Jesus away] had no power because Jesus was fully prepared to die in Jerusalem (v.33).
Jesus' grief at dying was not only for himself but for Jerusalem the city which always refused to repent (v.34). Yet the day would come when Jerusalem would greet Him, temporarily with joy on Palm Sunday and permanently, some with joy and some with fear, at His second coming (v.35).
Personal Application: I will ask to know the authority of the Kingdom to use it rightly to rule over unclean spirits doing evil.
My Prayer: Father, I don't know the extent to which you intend us to do the works of Jesus or what aspect of preparation to do this we may have lost or don't see rightly. But Father, fill in the gaps of my understanding or spiritual preparation. Prepare and equip me to be an effective channel of Kingdom authority to bring blessing to needy people and great and lasting honor to You!
The breadth and narrowness of the Kingdom: Some wanted to limit the flow of the grace of God by preventing Jesus from healing on the Sabbath (v.1-6). Jesus refused this limit and pointed out that pride actually self-limits the grace of God (v.7-9). God values humility. "Humility is the path to promotion in the kingdom of God" (Ryrie). Giving only to those who will give back (v.12-14) also limits the grace of God. Such giving is not giving at all since what is given is returned.
Rather the breadth of the Kingdom is expressed when we go out to be generous to "the poor, crippled, lame and blind" (v.13, 21). Even the seemingly pious comment in v. 15 actually opposes the intent of Jesus: "everyone" appears to be broad but is not because it includes those who will give back; God's offer is to those who cannot give back.
Generosity may be the surest evidence of the experience of grace.
At the same time the Kingdom is narrow. God's Kingdom excludes those who have something better to do (v.18-20). "Two invitations were issued. Since the excuse involved pre-planned activities, the first invitation should have been declined" (Ryrie). The Kingdom also excludes those who do not value God's kingdom and grace above all else (v.25-35).
Possessions (v.33) stand at the intersection of status, security, generosity and pride. Here, as always, Jesus goes to the heart of the matter. For this reason Jesus places our possessions at His disposal to extend the Kingdom. We are to be ridiculously generous with gifts such as those in vs. 12-24. We are to trust Him and the Father entirely. This is not to be put off till later; we will not be able to enter the Kingdom if not "all in." Yet Jesus' seems to leave a measure of control of how we "give up all ... " (meals, gifts, other gifts of mercy) to the disciple.
Personal Application: I will be generous, not to those who can and likely will repay, but to those who cannot, specifically …
My Prayer: Father, I want to learn this core nature of the generosity of the Kingdom fully and to enter in. Truly, the Kingdom is broader than many who know they do not deserve it, think, and narrower than many who think they do deserve it, will discover. Lord, guide me through the narrow gate into spaciousness.
Heart of the Father: In contrast to the hostility of the Pharisees (v.2) and eldest son (v.29-30) to repentant sinners, the heart of the Father is one of compassion (v.20) and celebration (v.32).
In the first two parables the man and woman go out seeking for what is lost (v.4,8). In the third, the yearning of the Father's heart is expressed by peering into the distance in hope of restoration (v.20).
In all three parables the lostness of humanity is emphasized (the term "lost" is used 8 times), the yearning of God to seek the lost in love (v.4, 8, 20), and the joy of heaven in reconciliation ("joy" or "rejoice" is used 5 times, plus images of celebration, singing and dancing).
Personal Application: We should seek out those who are lost as earnestly as the shepherd, woman and Father. We must not be angry at 'sinners' but seek out and welcome them with joy into the Kingdom. Jesus emphasizes that not only is the 'sinner' a 'child' of the Father but in fact our 'brother' (v.32).
My Prayer: Father, thank you that you sought out and welcomed me, a lost sinner, also. Lord, grant me the burning, yearning of your heart for others also. Give me opportunity to express it today, in person or in prayer.
The Love and Use of Money: The point of his parable (vs. 1-8) could be missed if Jesus didn't himself explain it. Jesus does not praise dishonestly but shrewdness in stewarding present opportunities to prepare for the future (Ryrie) including:
1.) awareness that small habits grow. Faithfulness produces more faithfulness and unrighteousness produces more unrighteousness (v.10),
2.) use money for Kingdom purposes, confident that those entering heaven before us will welcome us when we arrive (v.9),
3.) faithfulness with money that only slides through our fingers and does not even really belong to us will result in the gift of true eternal riches which will be ours forever (v.11-12),
4.) we must choose our priority; only our gracious God is worthy of wholehearted service; money too must serve Him (v.13).
Highly Esteemed - by God or by man?:
What is highly esteemed among men, though detested by God (v.13)? The context suggests hording wealth at the expense of the poor and needy (v.19-31.
What is highly esteemed by God, though often ignored by man? The Kingdom of God (v.16), the Law and Prophets which reflect His character (v.17) and resulting purity of heart and life, including especially in marriage (v.18).
The Need to Choose while we are living: Important lessons include conscious existence after death (22-31), reality of hell as well as heaven (v.23-28), fixed destinies (v.26) closing off communication between the living and the dead (v.27-28), hearts closed even to the miracle of resurrection (v.31). God wants us to be good stewards, to be faithful in small things anticipating faithfulness in great things, to value and seek the true riches of His Kingdom, to use money for His Kingdom purposes expressing His character and love, to share with the needy.
v.11: If you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous mammon, who will entrust true riches to you? If you have not been faithful in the use of that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own?
Personal Application: I am a steward of His riches, expressing His character and Kingdom. I will raise our giving goal for the year. I will steward spiritual gifts given to me for others, particularly apostolic and pastoral. I will value what is highly esteemed by God: generosity, shrewdness (ingenuity), faithfulness, fruitfulness.
My Prayer: Father, help me be a good steward. Help me value what You value. Help me reflect Your character in my use of money. Father, use me to point people to Your Kingdom that their destiny would be glory with You.
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